Tuesday, 8 January 2013


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6 Apps to Tame Your Enormous Phone
By Anthony Verducci,
Popular Mechanics, 7 January 2013.

Is that a phone in your pocket, or did you buy the Galaxy Note II? Android phones, including the newest from Samsung, are approaching tablet proportions. Yet a few handy apps and shortcuts will let you use them with one hand, despite their enormity.

When is a phone too big?

Android device-makers have been toeing the line ever since they decided the original iPhone was just plain small and blew past its tidy proportions. Now Samsung's gone downright crazy with the Galaxy Note II, a phone so big the company won't even call it a phone and insists on "phablet." Given the Note II's 5.5-inch screen, you might think one-handed operation is a no-go. But with some tweaks, you can tame this beast and make it act like a docile smartphone.

You might wonder (or you might have commented to your friend with the sprawling device): If the phone's too big, why not just get a smaller one? If you're like me, your phone has evolved into a personal assistant and left your laptop collecting dust by the front door. But using your phone this way demands more screen size. So give a big phone a serious try‚ not the 10 minutes in the store, but a real try. Odds are you won't go back.

1. Nova/Apex Launcher

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Price: Free

Every phone manufacturer puts a skin over the standard Android OS to try to differentiate themselves from one another. Whether it's Touchwiz, Blur, or Sense, these skins all have one thing in common: They're not optimized for giant phones. Try the Nova or Apex launchers instead. They work much better and offer a slew of customizations such as infinite-scrolling pages, a separate scrolling dock bar, and a hide/show notification bar. Most importantly, they add gestures, which allows you to swipe in different directions to control actions or apps. For instance, on my phone, swiping down reveals the notification menu, and a double tap shows my recent apps‚ saving my poor, aching thumb from overstretching.

2. SwipePad: Hyperspace Launcher

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Price: Free

This little gem keeps all my apps at my fingertips. It overlays the launcher with a panel of apps and shortcuts. With a single swipe you can launch anything from within the app. For especially large phones, grab the Morespace add-on, which puts more fields in the overlay to make it easier to scroll with one hand.

3. Poweramp

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Price: US$3.99

Poweramp is arguably the best music player out for Android. To make it work for your phablet, dig into the menu setting and move all the controls to the bottom of the screen. Anything that keeps my thumb at the bottom of the phone gets my dollar (or US$3.99).

4. Quicker

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Price: US$2.60

Like SwipePad, Quicker puts your frequently used settings and shortcuts within easy reach. It also gives you multiple pages with customizable toggle buttons and bars. I find myself using Quicker's brightness, flashlight, and volume setting constantly, and with one thumb.

5. ICS Quick Controls

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Price: N/A

The standard browser on ICS has a feature in the Labs setting called Quick Controls, which places the navigation buttons in the shape of a half pie. Touching the side of the screen will pop up a blue half pie with all the controls you need to fly through your daily web habit.

6. LMT Launcher (Warning: Root Only)

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Price: Free

The previous apps work on just about every phone, but some require you to root your device to gain complete access to the phone's subsystem. Rooting is risky and will void your warranty, but sometimes the good outweighs the bad.

Used with any launcher, LMT allows for system-wide gestures and half-pie controls for navigation. The pie control means I can navigate my phone from wherever my thumb is.

[Source: Popular Mechanics. Edited.]

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